How to Prepare for a Marketing Job Interview
A job interview is daunting at the best of times, but marketing is a notoriously hard industry to break into.
It’s easy for us to forget how hard it was to get that first interview, that first job, after you’ve been in the industry for a while.
Looking back to when I left University, I remember the recruiters I was meeting with, were trying to force me into office administration – as they didn’t feel they could even get me an interview for a marketing position. Now I have recruiters calling me regularly hoping I’m available for their position.
I ended up moving to South Korea as an English Language Teacher and providing freelance digital marketing services in the evenings and at weekends. That experience helped me when I came back to the UK and was able to get consulting work, providing digital marketing training for companies and some social media management.
Even with experience and a degree, I had to freelance for nearly a year before I managed to secure a full time Marketing Executive role.
According to Marketing Week, less and less people are looking to join the world of marketing – and can you blame them when we make it so hard to get your first role?
If less young people are seeing marketing as an option for their career, then the industry needs to be making it easier for those interested in marketing to get their foot in the door. At Marketing Week Live we discussed apprenticeships and how formal Marketing degrees are not helping students find work.
In the above image a recent graduate has marked the skills he did not learn throughout the entirety of his degree. You can find his full article here. If marketing degrees are nothing but a tick box exercise then those of us who can, need to be offering apprenticeships and sharing our knowledge.
I fully intend to offer a marketing apprenticeship as soon as I am able to, however until I am in a position to do so, I thought at the very least sharing some insight into the marketing hiring process may help.
Job Interview Inspiration
I don’t watch reality TV – even this year with an ex-colleague on the Voice, I’ve gotten around this by watching clips of her performance on YouTube so that I don’t have to watch the whole show.
That being said, I do have one guilty pleasure – which I think counts as reality tv. The Job Interview.
I first saw this show when the first season hit, because another ex-colleague was on it. I loved seeing the interview process from the other side of the table.
My mum and I are watching the new season together and vote as to which candidate we would hire. It’s a great show, and I sincerely recommend that those currently job searching check it out.
Another piece of advice to those new to the job application process, or those looking for their first role – volunteer. Charities – such as Cats Protection, are always looking for local volunteers to help with their social media accounts. This will cost you a maximum of 3 hours a week and will give you hands on experience of Social Media Management that you can put on your CV and use as a reference!
I personally have at least 4 pages that I’m managing at any one time, so this is a definite skill I look for in job candidates. Plus – helping a charity always looks and feels good.
The Application Process
The first step in getting a marketing job, is applying for jobs. Whenever I look for full time work, I like using the Reed app and swiping to save the jobs I’m interested in to my favourites.
Your CV is your first impression, so make it count. I always make my CV using Adobe InDesign and export it as a PDF. If you do this, ensure you have a version available without your contact details as Recruiters will want that version to send to their clients.
Marketing is quite a creative field, so I feel this gives me some flexibility to inject a little flair and personality into the designs of my CVs:
Of course, its the content of your CV that matters most! Try to tailor your CV for the types of roles you are applying for. It doesn’t hurt to have one for Digital roles, one for Communication roles and so on.
When writing your CV avoid looking like a “do-er”. This means don’t blandly write about what you did daily in the role eg “Was in charge of updating Social Media and monitoring for brand mentions. Also scheduled content and was responsible for checking links and images were pulling through correctly.”
While this may be what you were doing every day, it doesn’t sound very inspiring. It sounds like you showed up, did what you were told, and went home.
Instead mark your accomplishments. “While managing Social Media platforms I grew the audience by 17% on Facebook, 13% on Twitter and 42% on Instagram. My introduction of the branded hashtag #CompanyName lead to a reach of over 30,000 and an engagement rate of 4.9% on Twitter alone.”
These statistics should be easy for you to discover if you are still managing the account. For example for Facebook simply find out the number of Page likes at your joining, and current number, then see how much you have grown the account by.
I will warn you though – no matter what you have heard about “everyone” lying on their CV – don’t. If you can’t recreate something you did, if you can’t pull the statistics to prove it, it doesn’t belong on your CV and you will get caught out.
The Initial Phone Call
This might be with the recruiter for the role, or it may be with an internal HR person depending on the company. They happen throughout the work day once you have begun applying so make sure you are able to take the call without being flustered or interrupted.
If you can’t talk when they call – tell them. They will understand and send an email, or call you back at a more convenient time. Do not be afraid to say that you are busy.
During this call you will probably be asked the following:
- Why are you looking for a new role?
- What attracted you to this advert/position/company?
- What experience do you have with this industry/task?
- How long is your notice period?
- What is your current/expected salary?
Have the answers to these prepared. You do not need to provide your current salary if you do not want to, in this situation say something along the lines of “I’m looking for roles paying between £X and £Y due to the level of responsibility I’m seeking”.
I also tend to have a spreadsheet tracking what jobs I applied for, with screenshots of the advert linked for future reference. This ensures that I never forget who I’ve applied for and encourages you to think more about each job you apply for as you need to add it to your spreadsheet.
I usually include the following information from the adverts: Company the role is with (if mentioned), Recruiting Company and Recruiter Name, Job Title, Salary Range, Location of Job. I then list the competencies they want from a candidate and highlight the ones I believe I have. This can help with your confidence about your fit for the role – something I was in need of when I started in the industry!
How to Prepare for your Job Interview
At my level, I usually have a minimum of two interviews but often I am requested to have three. More junior roles will only need one interview, or may have a telephone interview as the first screening interview.
Marketing roles will often ask for examples of previous work, or for you to present a plan or presentation during your interview.
For this reason it is imperative that during your roles or work experience, or volunteering that you take notes on what you have done, ask for a copy of finished work – take screenshots. Obviously do not disclose confidential information – if you are taking screenshots be sure to blur out any information that is sensitive.
Researching the company you want to work for is a given. Do not ever show up to a job interview not knowing what that company does.
But in Marketing, I would expect you to do more. What social media platforms are they on? What are their most popular posts? Do they have a newsletter? Sign up and review it. Have they been in the news recently – why? Look at their website on a desktop and a mobile – how was the loading time? Is it easy to navigate on a mobile? When did they last update their blog?
There is so much information you can garner in just an hour of research – and it will give you a better idea of what they are expecting from the successful candidate. For example, if in their job advert they have said “Needs to be comfortable monitoring and maintaining all social media for the business” then at the very minimum you should know what platforms they are expecting you to manage.
Example Job Interview Questions
At the end of every interview you should be given the opportunity to ask some questions. Never tell them you don’t have any questions – this makes you look underprepared or worse, uninterested in the role.
Have 4-7 questions prepared but don’t feel as though you need to ask them all, especially as some of them may be answered throughout the course of the interview.
- What is the most urgent task for the successful candidate to take on and solve in the first 1 – 3 months?
- What does success look like in this role? For example, what would make you consider the candidate a successful hire when looking back at the first 6 months or the first year in the role?
- What does a typical day look like for this role?
- Why do you like working for this company?
- How does this company help to develop the team? What options are available for professional development?
- Where is the company hoping to be in 5 years, and how can this role help the company achieve that vision?
- What are the next steps in the interview process?
The above questions are all ones I have used myself, but you can find more examples with a quick google search. I recommend having them written down (with space for the answer) and taking them into the interview with you. You will have enough in your head without trying to memorise both the questions, and their answers!
Putting your best foot forward and other anecdotal advice
Being confident is important, but don’t be smug.
Research has shown no-body likes a humble-bragger, so honesty is always the best policy.
I’m sure at some point you’ve heard that you should “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” but if the job you want is in a casually dressed office, please do not show up for interview in jeans and a band t-shirt. I think you should always dress one step – up from the job you are interviewing for. So if the office is casual, you should be smart casual. If it’s casual, go for office-smart.
If the description is smart, wear a suit or a smart dress with a suit jacket – this is my go-to outfit for interviews by the way.
Above all else, your outfit should be clean, crumple free, your hair and make-up shouldn’t be smudged or over the top. But – don’t wear something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Try wearing your interview outfit around the house to get used to the feeling, so that you won’t be sat in the interview tugging at a sleeve, or fidgeting in the chair.
Practice the answers to typical job interview questions – in a mirror, on video so you can review later, or with a friend/family member.
Review your digital presence. Do you have a linked in profile? If I google your name, what comes up? I once went to a job interview where they asked me about my dog – they had found my blog from my time in Korea and were fascinated that I had brought her back to the UK with me.
If, like me, you share a name with someone famous (There is a relatively well known Cellist who always comes top for my name on Google) then what can you do to differentiate yourself? I use my middle initials and have this consistent across my public profiles (website, linked in and twitter). I also use the same image of myself with Panda – although most advice you will see tells you not to include your pet in your headshot.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is an accurate reflection of yourself and your career.
For example in the job experience section, link to the company so that the logo appears, give a brief description of what they do, and list your achievements. If possible, link to examples of the work you created while there – such as blog posts and adverts.
Use your headline as your keywords, not as your job title. Help recruiters find you, by turning on the setting that lets them know you are looking. Fill out that profile until you are sure there is nothing else you can add. Then request recommendations from previous colleagues – these can really make your profile stand out.
I wish you the best of luck with your new marketing career!